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Lycamobile accused of money laundering & VAT fraud in France



Lycamobile France, three of its managers and eight other people are on trial in Paris from Monday on charges of money laundering and VAT fraud between 2014 and 2016, French media reported.

Lycamobile is owned by Subaskaran Aliraja, who has become the ultimate owner of three radio and television channels in Sri Lanka. The company has also offered to buy state-owned shares in Sri Lanka Telecom PLC and Lanka Hospital PLC.

BFM Business news said a Paris Court is looking into Lycamobile involving a series of front companies and traders in the Parisian district of La Chapelle, which would have made it possible to launder more than 17 million euros in seven months.

However, according to the company, which defends itself from any infringement, has said that a “system” has been set up “without their knowledge.” 

Revealed by the Buzzfeed site, the investigations were launched in early 2016 into the allegations.

The investigations revealed a circular operation where there were construction companies which made transfers and checks to “filter” companies in exchange of false invoices.

These companies, in reality empty shells, bought cards and phone recharges from Lycamobile, but these goods were not received, according to the investigation.

Two Lycamobile sales reps resold them to shops in the 18th arrondissement of Paris.

The prepaid cards and their top-ups were resold on the “ethnic market” of North African, African and Indo-Pakistani communities wishing to call abroad.

“This procedure shows very clearly that filter companies and construction companies have organized and implemented a system to remunerate work concealed by a game of SIM card resales without the knowledge of Lycamobile”, a company spokesperson has told the AFP. 

“We cannot therefore hold Lycamobile responsible for the implementation of this illegal scheme which is totally foreign to it”, adds the spokesperson.

The court will examine suspicions of VAT fraud through the “misuse” of an existing legal derogatory regime in the telephone sector.

The prosecution considers that, via an “arrangement” between the two sister companies, Lycamobile Services improperly resold the telephone products, purchased all taxes included (TTC) from Lycamobile France, at a price excluding tax (HT), which allowed it to claim VAT refunds.

Lycamobile France, Lycamobile Services, as well as Alain Jochimek, managing director of the two companies, are tried for laundering or misuse of corporate assets and concealed work in an organized gang.

Lycamobile Services and Alain Jochimek are tried for VAT fraud.

Eight other defendants are tried for one or the other offence, suspected of having played a role in the scheme.


Presidential poll will be held first as scheduled: President affirms




President Ranil Wickremesinghe affirmed that the Presidential election will be held as scheduled with the General Elections anticipated to be held early next year, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.

The President gave this assurance during a meeting with the representatives of the United Republic Front headed by by its leader Parliamentarian Patali Champika Ranawaka at Sirikotha today.

The United Republic Front presented a proposal titled “A United Step for the Country” to President Ranil Wickremesinghe this morning (24), at ‘Srikotha’, the United National Party headquarters in Colombo.

After engaging in discussions with the President, the leader of the United Republic Front, Member of Parliament Patali Champika Ranawaka, along with his delegation, presented this proposal to the President.

Speaking at the event, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, highlighted the government’s concerted efforts over the past two years to stabilize the country’s economy, which had faced significant challenges. 

Stressing the government’s commitment to steering the economy towards recovery through strategic reforms, the President expressed his determination to continue these initiatives with the collective support of everyone.

Recalling his open invitation to all political parties to unite under a common agenda on behalf of the country, regardless of political differences, the President reiterated his willingness to embrace constructive proposals from all political parties as part of the nation-building efforts.

The President responded positively to the request made by MP Patali Champika Ranawaka to allow other political parties to participate in the upcoming negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) next month concerning the restructuring of foreign debts.

United National Party Deputy Leader and President’s Senior Adviser on Climate Change, Ruwan Wijewardena, along with Secretary General of the United National Party Palitha Range Bandara were also in attendance at the event. 

Representing the United Republic Front were Karu Paranavithana, Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe and Attorney-at-Law, Shiral Lakthilaka.


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Dedicated SLBFE office to be established in Kegalle district




In response to a joint request from the Kegalle Migrant Workers Committee and the Kegalle District political authority, Labour and Foreign Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara has assured the establishment of a dedicated Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) office in Kegalle District.

The request was presented during the Jayagamu Sri Lanka program organized by the Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment in Kegalle. 

The Committee emphasized the need for an SLBFE office in the district, which has the highest number of migrant workers in Sabaragamuwa Province.

Commending the Minister for his prompt action in establishing a new SLBFE office in Nuwara Eliya District following a similar request, the Committee expressed confidence in his swift response to their current appeal. 

Minister Nanayakkara pledged immediate steps to open an SLBFE office in Kegalle and instructed officials from the Ministry and SLBFE to take the necessary actions for its swift establishment. 

This move aims to enhance support and services for migrant workers in the district.

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Parliamentary committee demands CBSL report on salary hike amid criticism




Amidst growing criticism over the substantial salary hike for Central Bank employees, a key parliamentary committee has taken action, demanding a report from the Central Bank regarding the legal basis for such an increment without parliamentary approval.

Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Alleviating the Impact of the Economic Crisis, MP Gamini Waleboda, disclosed that the issue was raised during a committee meeting where Central Bank officials were present.

The Central Bank is now expected to submit a comprehensive report on the salary increment in the coming week. Following the submission, the Sectoral Oversight Committee intends to summon the Central Bank and its Monetary Board for further examination.

MP Waleboda highlighted that the committee expressed strong criticism of the 70% salary increase for Central Bank employees, especially given the ongoing economic crisis, deeming it an immoral act.

“We instructed the Central Bank to provide a report by next week to justify the salary increase. They will need to provide the legal provisions that empower them to effect such an increment. We will summon the Central Bank and its Monetary Board after receiving the report,” stated MP Waleboda.

Both government and opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) have voiced objections to the Central Bank’s decision to raise the salary scales by 70%, with Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella asserting that the Central Bank Act lacks provisions for such salary increases without parliamentary approval, deeming it illegal.

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